Some of the most complicated divorces are complicated not because the spouses hate each other, but because they delayed in filing for divorce – sometimes until long after they had separated households. In probate court, an action for Divorce is focused on dividing the legal and financial responsibilities of a marriage. Marriage is considered a legal and financial endeavor, whether it relates to earning income, accumulating assets and debt, or raising children. While you and your spouse may have an informal agreement that you are separated, if no one has filed a case in probate court, the court may evaluate your case very differently than you intend.
Once spouses separate into two households, it can get very difficult to figure out who has contributed what to their joint obligations and how the property division should be fairly accomplished. Many times one spouse pays marital expenses thinking that he or she will simply get credit in the final judgment. Unfortunately, the spouse receiving the benefit of those contributions usually thinks the opposite – that they won’t get a smaller share of the marital estate as a result of generosity prior to litigation.
If child custody is not agreed to, the court looks to the “status quo”, or whatever has been happening since the separation. A spouse who moved out of the house for a few months while they figured out the next steps may face the prospect of reduced time with their children permanently, because the court seeks to provide for stability for the children.